Wednesday, December 30, 2015
This year, though, I set out to draft a full book. It has a lot of work that still needs to go into it, like ten thousand words that need to be cut out and replaced with a better opening. Continuity needs to get hammered into place, scenes need a LOT of refinement, and the plot itself needs to get overhauled so that it all makes sense. But I have something to work with! And even though it didn't end the way I originally planned, I feel like it's an ending I can work with and work toward as I move all the pieces into place.
My goals for next year are a little different than last year's. My plan is to learn to write short stories. I'm going to finish this current book and start another one, and I'm going to query it, but my focus in between that project is to get at least three short stories published in SFWA qualified publications.
Unlike the goals I set as a younger man, I'm going to be flexible with these. They're difficult to achieve, which is important because I need to stretch myself to get better at what I do. But if it turns out to be "impossible," then I know how to adjust my technique to make sure I still accomplish real, difficult goals without simply "failing" to rise to a challenge. With the short stories, a lot of that comes down to the market (once I learn how to write short stories well). I can't control what editors want, though I can improve my work to make it desirable. So obviously, the number I set is mostly to give me something to aim for. It's not something I'm simply going to bend on if I feel like it's getting too hard. But we'll see what my goals look like in a few months, too.
Be safe this New Year's Eve. We'll have a new episode up next Tuesday!
Monday, December 28, 2015
I was supposed to post last Monday, but I totally spaced. I should *probably* have something nerd-related to talk about, but it's currently too late in the day for me to come up with a great theme (since for me it's close to 10:30 pm).
Here are a few I considered:
1. How traveling makes me want to move to a new city and see what artsy things are going on there.
2. How awesome/amazing/hilarious Olan Rodgers videos are.
3. Why free wifi is the shizz.
4. Why buying books from a bouquiniste vendor on the Seine feels so lovely.
5. Reading old favorites in new places.
6. The fact that maybe a little German and lots of Italian would've been rather helpful on this trip. RATHER. HELPFUL.
The fact is, if you haven't ventured to a city where you don't speak the language, you should. Oh, don't get me wrong. It's an introvert's nightmare. But it's good for you, I promise. It teaches you fun things like the fact of "calzone" being pronounced as "cahl-sone-ay". (Thank you, random food person, for making me feel silly saying a word I've grown up with. Those raised eyebrows were very helpful).
Michelle is currently in Rome and has no idea how to make her mobile app put her photo in the right place...so just pretend she's smirking at you. Actually, she probably *is* smirking at you, because she does that a lot. It's a personal problem.
Friday, December 25, 2015
This post is short because I'm doing exactly that.
Emily is blessed enough to be spending time with her relatives and some of her chosen family this week. All she's missing right now is a big old cup of hot chocolate and a cat to snuggle.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Have a great Christmas, and I'll write to you in a week!
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
These are my three favorite charities, and they all do amazing things around the world. While so many people talk about what they should be GETTING, consider giving. It IS a wonderful thing to do.
Monday, December 14, 2015
|Look at all the languages they have!|
Friday, December 11, 2015
And, let me tell you, looking at it written down, I'm wondering what the heck I'm thinking. I've had trouble finishing a single novel in two years, why do I think I can pound out two books in one year? Honestly, I'm worried that I won't be able to make it. But I'm dang well going to try anyway.
That's the point of goals, isn't it? To stretch you and push you out of your comfort zone and kick your butt into moving toward your dreams? At least, that's what I'm telling myself!
Basically, I'm sick of letting myself set mediocre goals and then coming up with excuses not to meet them. At least this way, if I fail, I'm failing doing something ambitious and difficult. And there's a weird sense of motivation that comes from looking at hard goals and feeling slightly overwhelmed--but just slightly; there's a fine line between motivating-overwhelm and crushing-overwhelm, at least for me.
And now that I've written this blog post about it, I'm publicly accountable, too. Double-whammy!
Have you started thinking about your goals for next year? Let me know if you're on the crazy-train with me!
Emily will also be chronicling working toward these goals on her personal blog (emilykaysinger.com) and Twitter. You know, in case you want to cheer her on or wait for the epic fail she's going to try really hard to avoid.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Think about your real life. Or your significant other's. Or sibling's, parents', best friend's, etc. How many things are going on in your life at once? Is it ever just one thing? If the answer's yes, chances are it's either so over-the-top chaotic that it's almost impossible to handle, or it's so boring that no one wants to hear about it for hours on end.
Subplots are those other, often minor, events in characters' lives that make the events on the page feel real. Sometimes the subplots will tie together, or the events will conclude at the same time, or solutions to one will inform the solution to another. But they MUST be present, even if they conclude wildly differently, because without them, the story is nothing more than a ninety-minute action movie.
Or someone's Facebook feed.*
If your book feels flat or short, adding a subplot can help, if it ties in with the main plot.**
Don't believe me? Go pick your five favorite books. Doesn't matter if they're written for Middle Grade audiences or High Literary fans with multiple post-graduate degrees. Each and every one of them has a subplot. At LEAST one.
As for HOW to write a subplot, look for background information about a character's life, then put together events that they need to solve while working on the main plot. The timeline has to work out for both to conclude satisfactorily for the reader, but it's possible to add a few paragraphs or full sections per chapter that are dedicated to these events (think about the romance arc in Soulless, or the "dancing lessons" in Game of Thrones [book not show]).
What about you, any tips on writing subplots?
*Seriously, Facebook feeds are filled with glimpses of someone's life, and the most honest ones either get ignored for being "too whiney" or "too many instances of TMI."
**Keep in mind that the subplot and main plot are separate, but they NEED to both flow through the narrative smoothly or it will feel like two disjointed stories smashed together for the sake of padding pages.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Friday, December 4, 2015
As someone who was convinced she wanted to be a scientist--in particular a paleontologist--for a good portion of her life, this really appealed to me. Even the driest scientific paper is telling a story, the story of the experiment or study. And, like it or not, writers can't get away from science. Even in the wildest fantasy, there has to be rules and things that we call science nowadays that might not be called science in that world. That isn't to say all magic in fantasy is unexplained science, but it has to follow some of the same rules.
As someone who's now been writing for over a decade (not that the early stuff was any good), I know there's a lot I can learn from science. How would a shock wave really affect your character(s) based on how big the explosion is and how far away they are? Hint: it may take longer for the shock wave to reach your character than you expect. Is it possible for your character to escape from prison with salsa? Hint: it really depends on how much time they have.
Basically, I think there's this tendency among the artistic and scientific folks to look at each other and sneer. And I think that's bull. There's a lot we can learn from each other and from the different disciplines and I think that's totally worth the effort.
Emily has always been that weird kid who loved documentaries. She might have developed a character completely inspired by watching a history of tattooing once.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Technically, it's historical romance, but it's also portal fantasy mixed with some serious adventure writing. I loved it so much that I'm currently listening to it AGAIN with my wife.
Mash-ups can be tough to do well. My two favorites are Charlaine Harris and Jim Butcher. Both of their series could TECHNICALLY fit in the Urban Fantasy sub genre, but Harris leans more toward mystery/romance, while Butcher is action/noir.
The reason I love both of those series so much is that I enjoy stories that subvert my expectations. It's a big part of what inspires the podcast, and it's what inspires a lot of my writing. Epic Fantasy and Hard Science Fiction have their place, but in my experience, it's hard to find something that's not a rehash of something else I've read before. And while the books I love most are following many of the same patterns as other great stories over the centuries, they do it in a way that feels fresh and new to me.
I'm not saying that there's a lack of originality, either. I don't think mash-ups are the only TRUE new books. I love classic fantasy and sci-fi. And mysteries. And romance. But I'm not always in the mood for something with a classic feel. Mash-ups give me something ELSE to read through and engage with.
What about you? Do you have any favorite mash-ups? What are they, and why do you like them?
Monday, November 30, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015
Happy Thanksgiving from the Beyond the Trope crew! If you're going out today, drive safe and don't be a jerkface.
We'll talk at you all on Tuesday, when our next episode comes out!
Emily is planning on spending the day warm inside with her cats and a new file in the Fantasy Life game for the 3DS. Because even word nerds need a break from the books. And, you know, laziness is a thing sometimes.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
This year I'm very thankful for my wife, BIG TIME! I'm also thankful for my cohosts, Emily and Michelle. The four of us as a group have accomplished a lot over the last year. We've each had our share of ups and downs, but I think we've done a good job of being there for each other, and while our lives are still moving unpredictably at times, we have each other, along with a wider group of friends we can rely on.
I'm thankful for my family, too. And everyone who came by a table or booth we set up at a con to say "Hi." I'm thankful for the one-time listeners who check us out for one reason or another, then move on, and I'm thankful for the listeners who find us for a specific interview or topic and stick around because they like what we do.
I'm thankful for the opportunities that may present themselves over the next year, and I'm thankful for the opportunities that we'll create for ourselves.
What are you thankful for?
Monday, November 23, 2015
Friday, November 20, 2015
For the last several weeks, I've been feeling like I haven't accomplished anything with regards to my writing this year. This morning, I realized that's not true. Sure, I don't have a novel finished, but that doesn't mean I haven't done anything. As a matter of fact, this year I:
- Wrote two short stories and submitted them to anthologies
- Wrote another short story that was submitted to a magazine (and needs to be submitted elsewhere)
- Wrote 13,000 words on the beginning of a new novel
- Figured out how I want to brand myself as an author moving forward (though I still need to decide how to implement that)
- Regained the rights to my first short story, "Colfax Kitsune," and started considering self-publishing it as a stand-alone piece, or with its sequel short story (depending on the results of the anthology the second one is submitted to)
- Met some amazing people, both within and outside of the writing community
- Got encouraged by Neil Gaiman and James McBride
- Co-taught the "Writing the Basics of Queer Characters" workshop twice
- Co-taught the "Tropes 101" workshop twice
- Wrote my first humorous story that actually made people laugh and (assuming this anthology doesn't turn around and hate it) will be my first paid piece of fiction
Moving into the holiday season, creative time gets short for a lot of us. But don't beat yourself up about it. Use the time to look back on what you accomplished this year, no matter how small it might seem, and feel proud about it!
Emily is working on reminding herself to take pride in her accomplishments. It's hard, but it's worth it. She's also working on learning how to be brave, reading her enormous backlog of comics, and writing entirely too many projects at the same time. Follow the insanity on Twitter @EmilykSinger.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Today, I have the day off. I requested it off to deal with some errands that could only be done during the week, while I normally work. And I'm getting paid for my time off. Obviously, that's more than a subtle change, but to me it came about in a significant but small way. It's huge, yes, but following the course of my life from my perspective, it was almost inevitable.
With writing, things have changed a lot, too. The book that I'm querying right now got conceptualized, drafted, revised, and edited in about 14 months. I pushed for that. I wanted to be able to show agents and editors that I can write a book in a year. That meant that "success" in each day of writing required a minimum of 1500 words, and near the end, closer to 2500. I hit those goals consistently, and I edited and revised on schedule.
Not so with the book I'm working on now. Because of the time I had to spend on my day job when I didn't get paid time off, and because of many other aspects of my life that I simply couldn't control, creativity almost didn't happen at all. For nearly six months. I even "won" nanowrimo last year with a story that was utter crap. I'm proud of the accomplishment, but I'm SO happy that I'm done with that project. It was stupid and bad and deserves to be shut away somewhere.
As some long-time readers/listeners know, I had a story workshopped on The Roundtable Podcast earlier this year. That's the story I'm working on now. The first draft has reached my minimum word goal of 60k, and I still have a few more chapters to write before it's drafted. But this will only be draft .5. The "complete" first draft will come after I let the ideas drift around in my brain, then I have to rewrite about 15k words and let it sit again before I can start the real revisions. It's going to take a while. Definitely more than 14 months from concept to query.
But I'm making progress. And I've achieved this, so far, with a "minimum" daily goal of 500 words. Which I consistently miss. I just upped it to 625 because I need to keep stretching myself again. Get my brain working where it was a few years ago. But I'm very proud of the progress I'm making. And even though life is changing in other subtle ways, too, my focus on writing and success is staying true to the goals I set when I was 14.
The journey won't look the same for each of you out there, and it won't even look the same for me next year. But I'm rolling with it. Not giving up, despite how often I feel like that would be the "best" thing I could do.
Monday, November 16, 2015
He knew why he wanted to kiss her. Because she was beautiful. And before that, because she was kind. And before that, because she was smart and funny. Because she was exactly the right kind of smart and funny. Because he could imagine taking a long trip with her without ever getting bored. Because whenever he saw something new and interesting, or new and ridiculous, he always wondered what she'd have to say about it--how many stars she'd give it and why.
- Lincoln, “Attachments”, by Rainbow Rowell
- It’s a romance lead by 29-year-old Lincoln, who just finished his master’s degree and had to move back in with his mom. If Lincoln were real, I would marry him. This is not a joke. He stops to help strangers fix their car tires. He shares his dinner with little old ladies. And when he has a chance to meet his crush…he runs away. <3
- It’s set around Y2K, but the social interactions (a.k.a awkward, introverted people trying to go out into the “normal” world with “normal” people) are totally on par for today.
- The email exchanges between the leading lady and her best friend are so accurate for female best friends it’s creepy. I’m serious. It felt like reading the text conversations my bestie and I have during the day.
- Rowell’s style is just plain fun. You get to sit back and enjoy the story without trudging through rants about love or growing up or learning to adult. The book is about all of these things, but they present themes, not a thesis.
Friday, November 13, 2015
Most people have to be in a good mindset to get creative. When we're feeling frustrated or irritated or tired or worried about something else, it's really hard to focus on getting words on the page. Really, really hard. How can you possibly get into a character's head if your brain is worried about a friend in the hospital or fuming about that jerk that hit your car in the parking lot?
On the other hand, a lot of people use "I'm not in the right mindset" to avoid being creative at all. There is a certain point where we have to put on our big kid panties and force ourselves to sit down and write. It's not fun, and it's hard, but sometimes that's what we have to do.
There's a fine line between genuinely being so upset that you can't work and using it as an excuse. I'm not sure where that line is for you, but I know I abuse it sometimes. And that's okay--sometimes. We all need a break now and then and if life is overwhelming, that might be a good time to take one. Just make sure you don't continue finding excuses not to write or create and that you get back on the horse soon!
Emily has had one of those weeks where all she wants to do is hide under the blankets and watch romantic comedies or goofy anime. But she wrote this blog and is going to write more later. Probably with a comforting cup of tea. Because tea is the best.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Yes, the episode is only 25 minutes long, but it's a conversation! There are conversations that my co-hosts and I had, conversations that our listeners participated in, and because of those emails, conversations BETWEEN us!
It's exciting to me. Inspired thought, whether part of a deep topic or something "shallow", is something I enjoy. I'll talk for hours with my friends about books, movies, video games, RPGs, story, philosophy, morality, and a number of other topics. And I love it!
This engagement between humans is something that separates us from the animals. Complex thought, the ability and desire to communicate multi-faceted ideas, make us HUMAN, and the fact that I'm part of that makes me want to write, to record, to sing and dance (not as pretty as you might guess), and then join in conversation AGAIN.
Let's have conversations. Join in, either in the comments, or by emailing us. And if you don't want to talk to us, then enjoy a great book. Because by "listening" to the ideas of a writer, you're engaging in their conversation because you can't HELP but react when reading something amazing.
Seriously, go read! And tell us what you think we should read.
Monday, November 9, 2015
Friday, November 6, 2015
I know, logically, that this often comes from an intention to make a second season, or the source material (a light novel, or a manga, for instance) isn't finished or has an ending that didn't 'work' for anime audiences (or, you know, things got changed for American audiences). But it got me thinking about the importance of closure and payoff in storytelling.
How many times have you watched a movie or read a book and the ending was a complete letdown? The "it's all a dream" syndrome, or major story lines didn't get wrapped up despite the fact that it was a standalone piece. It's a horrible feeling, isn't it? You're left wondering what happened to the main conflict, or why the protagonist suddenly feels content living a normal life when the Big Bad is still out there, waiting. It's anti-climatic and makes a reader/watcher feel like they just wasted a bunch of time getting invested in the lives of these characters for nothing.
The good news is there's a fix for this. Critique groups and beta readers can help you figure out where your story might be falling flat and, if they're good at brainstorming, help you work on ramping up the tension and cutting out the anti-climatic bits. They're also pretty good at helping to point out plot lines that haven't been wrapped up, or plot holes readers will want filled in. Even the most detail-oriented planners are likely to have a few dangling threads that will drive readers crazy!
So, long story short: don't shortchange your audience. We'll get angry and write vague blog posts about it.
Emily might have had this problem in her latest short story, but it's fixed now. She also seems to get irrationally angry over let-down last episodes of things that don't have another season coming.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
The first book ends with good story closure, and this book picks up only a few weeks later with Vic coming out of a treatment center where he's been trying to get a "cure" for his vampirism. Throughout the story, he struggles with his desire to be a good person and his need to have solid relationships that seemed to be going better when he was a cold-blooded bloodsucker.
The ups and downs in the storyline, combined with the tension of character growth, made this a real page-turner. The characters are moving about in a world that feels real, living dynamic lives that make the reader wonder who's the good guy and who's the bad guy (though some of them are CLEARLY bad).
Over all, Harris Gray brought me to the end of the second part of their trilogy with a solid desire to find out what happens next. Which is annoying because the third book isn't finished, yet. I guess I'll have to wait for it.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Whatever you do, though, don't ask my roommate how much I care about them. I'll just tell you that I've done a lot of Netflixing lately...and it's been exclusively Friends for about a month now. I. Can't. Stop.
As a mid-80s baby, I was just young enough to not totally get everything that went on while Friends was actually on air. Well, that and I wasn't allowed to watch it. Ha. I caught a few re-runs when they used to show on TV, but before a month ago I'd never watched the series with any kind of order. I thought I would just watch a few and get on with my life.
This is how addictions begin, right? TV shows. Not even once.
I love laughing, and this show is hilarious. I love being able to relax, and this show doesn't make me work to follow along. At twenty minutes a pop I can chill for under an hour...or for five. But most of all, I love Monica and Chandler. They give the entire show story a depth that can only come from a couple living something slightly more realistic than always having free time to meet up in a coffee shop. Which, by the way, I'm incredibly jealous of.
I'd like to shake hands with the writer who came up with the story twist that threw them together.
Michelle discovered thin, mint Oreos this week. Ermahgerd. Oreos finally have the right amount of icing. It's a miracle!
Friday, October 30, 2015
For the last month, I've flip-flopped on whether or not I want to try my hand at National Novel Writing Month again this year. I used to do it like clockwork every year while I was in school, but I think I'm going to sit back this time.
The thing I've noticed about myself is when I'm focused on sheer numbers and an 'enforced' deadline, I get sloppy. Not just inconsistencies and 50-word-sentences sloppy, but sloppy in the "I'm going to write as much ridiculousness as I can just to hit my word goal" kind of way. That often results in fourth-wall breaking, thinly veiled fanfic sections, and a jumbled mess of words that doesn't make sense as often as it does.
That works for some people, who can go through and pick out the gems and polish them up into something usable. But I have yet to find a way to fix a NaNo mess that I've created. I re-read the stuff I desperately wrote in that month and cringe and spend days trying to figure out what story I was telling. Not exactly the best kind of editing out there, and it's always more frustrating that it's worth.
If you can create something polishable from a NaNo piece, I salute you. And if you're participating this year, good luck! Keep writing!
Emily is currently wishing her fingers would warm up so typing wasn't such a problem. She's looking forward to not stressing about hitting an imaginary deadline and taking her time with the story she's working on. Once she finishes the short story that's on actual deadline, of course.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
The story follows Victor Thetherson, a late-middle-aged accountant with a weight problem, receding hairline, and aversion to blood. He's also a vampire. I didn't know what to expect from this book when I started out, but I found myself laughing at the jokes, cheering for the hero, and cringing every time the clumsy villain appeared on the page. The characters I was supposed to like, I connected with in a good way. The characters I was supposed to hate made me want to punch someone. Specifically, those characters.
As I said in our interview with the authors, the writing reminded me a little bit of John Grisham. If Grisham wrote vampire humor novels instead of courtroom dramas. The pacing and suspense kept me intrigued, and I found myself up late several nights to find out what happened next.
All in all, Harris Gray crafted a solid story with a satisfying conclusion, which is a daunting task for many writers (including myself). I'm impressed with how much effort they put into the project, and next book (which I'll review next week) is set up well by this one, though Vampire Vic could stand alone (a key requirement, in my opinion, for any book that begins a trilogy). I'm curious to see what Harris Gray comes up with next!
Monday, October 26, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
Anyway, we're thrilled to be attending MileHiCon for the first time this year. We'll have a space with the fan tables where you can come bother us, tell us jokes, hear our terrible jokes, and pick up Beyond the Trope stickers. They're pretty sweet. Just saying.
We'll also be at the Writer's Networking mixer tonight, so come stop by
If you're coming to MileHiCon, come say hi! I promise we don't bite. Much.
Emily is already exhausted, so this convention is going to be a fun, loopy ride. She's slightly disappointed she's missing the Avistrum events this weekend (Enigmus pride!), but is certain she's going to have a blast forcing stickers onto everyone who stops by our table.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
I know our episode this week is about writing education, but that's not where this is going. As a general rule, I think it's important for people to continue to seek out education, no matter what they want to do with their lives. Yes, it's a cliche, but when we stop learning, we start dying.
At my day job, this is helping me get a leg up on my future opportunities. For a while, it appeared that we here at Beyond the Trope were going to have a few other opportunities, as well. That may still happen, but I don't want to spoil the surprise (or brag about something that may not happen).
This may be a short post, but that's because it's a quick point. Go back to school. Either by picking up a book at the library, taking podcast courses (or iTunes U!), or finding YouTube/Netflix seminars. Even if it's not something directly related to your life right now, it could open up real opportunities. And even if it doesn't, what do you lose from learning something new?
Monday, October 19, 2015
- I will totally write 1,000 words after I watch an episode of [insert TV show here].
- This. Is. Gold.
- I am never, ever, ever going to finish this manuscript.
- It’s so perfect I don’t even need an editor!
- This. Is. Crap.
- Agents and editors are scary.
- I’m the only one who needs to understand what I mean.
- Just one more round of edits and it’s done.
- My computer will never crash while I’m writing the final chapter.
- I’m going to be rich and famous!
- If I watch more than one episode, chances are I’ve given up on writing for today.
- My critique group is going to have fun with these pages.
- Maybe I should start writing according to a word count calendar.
- I need an editor. Two editors. ALL THE EDITORS.
- I need encouragement, a walk, chocolate, and a puppy. Also, my critique group is going to have fun with these pages.
- Agents and editors are people.
- If this confused people, I should rewrite it.
- If all I do is edit, I’ll never move forward.
- Backup. Backup. Backup.
- I’m going to make enough money to buy a movie ticket once a year!
Friday, October 16, 2015
Obviously, this is a problem. How can I possibly expect to be a writer if I don't finish the things I'm working on? So over the last year or so, in between writing short stories, I tried to turn myself into a planner. I wrote a full outline for one story and a relatively detailed synopsis for another. I convinced myself it was a great feeling knowing where the story was going to go and that I could still change it if something felt wrong while I was writing it.
Neither of those stories went very far. I'm not entirely certain if it was the time spent on planning or taking pages to critique too early, but I lost interest in/got frustrated with both of them very early on. But I was still convinced I needed to try something else, since I haven't finished anything.
Last month, I gave up on planning for now and went back to pure pantsing for a new story I'm working on. I'm not entirely certain how long it's going to be, or what the actual central conflict is, or how any of my worldbuilding is going to come together into a coherent piece. But that's okay. That's what a shitty first draft is for, right? All of those things (and, you know, the tone and voice) can and will get ironed out once I have a better feel for the story I'm actually telling here.
And, you know what? I'm actually having fun writing again. That's the important part.
As of this blog, Emily is 6,000 words into her new story, which is further than she's gotten on something longer than a short story in over a year. She's quite proud of this fact, even if all of those words are total rubbish. At least they're words on the page.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Disclamer: I gave SHIELD three episodes to hook me. If a show fails to grab me the first two weeks, like SHIELD did, I'll give it a third, just to make sure the creators aren't trying something new that will pay off. But with my limited time and all of the awesome shows I could watch, that's all they get. I've heard (from some fans) that it's much better, now, though many of my friends who binged their way through the first season have said that the second season kept them going for a little while, then fell flat again. For that reason, I think this post that originally appeared on my other blog a few years ago is completely relevant. Still. Because The Blacklist is still SUPER AWESOME!
I was as excited as anyone when I heard Joss Whedon was creating a TV show based on Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. I've never been huge into comics, but I love heroes, adventure, and ensemble casts with great chemistry.
The Blacklist has all of that. There's a clear protagonist with a supporting cast of sidekicks, a mentor, the armorer, bodyguard, and obvious antagonists. Agents doesn't have one clear-cut protagonist to attach to as a viewer. Yes, we're supposed to cheer for the team, but why do I care about the team? Sure, they are "the protagonist," but what makes them special? Aside from the fact that they work for a secret organization that's trying to save the world?
In The Blacklist, the stakes are clear from the get-go. For that matter, it was the same with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and even Dollhouse. And I guess Agents has clear stakes, but they're not enticing enough. Save the world, but from what? Or from whom? Villain of the week isn't good enough for a story of this magnitude.
The first episode was quite a letdown, too, because in the previews we saw someone with "superpowers." And then the creators specifically told the audience that this show wouldn't be about superheroes. So right off the bat they told us, "This is going to be awesome, but it's not what you think." And the one character with real stakes, the one the audience wants to get attached to, is sent on his way.
I hope you're following me on this, and if not, I'm sorry that I'm not being clear. But let me make another example from Whedon's most successful show: Buffy. We have Buffy. A vampire slayer chosen by the Powers That Be to kill vampires and protect the world from invading evil. She has a backstory, complex emotions, and friends who support her in all of her efforts. It's the same with The Blacklist. But the only character in Agents is someone without any discernible personality. He's bland, dry, deadpan, and not at all engaging. Despite the fact that he got stabbed in Avengers. The ONE person we have ties to is the hardest to connect with. And the rest of the characters so far have so little going on that it's nearly impossible to care.
To turn this to a writer's perspective, when creating characters, make sure they have several important traits that make them engaging. Not necessarily likable, but engaging. And give them friends. Foils to enhance and reflect their personality. No lone-wolves with a secret past.
Now, I'm not sure if I'm in the majority here, so I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts. Discuss!
Monday, October 12, 2015
Beast: You do not believe me then?
Beauty: Well - no. Any number of mirrors have told me otherwise.
Beast: You will find no mirrors here, for I cannot bear them: nor any quiet water in ponds. And since I am the only one who sees you, why are you not then beautiful?
every day. But, I beseech your grace, pardon me: I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.
You can find Jo March in Little Women, Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre (duh), Beauty in Robin McKinley's Beauty, and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.
Friday, October 9, 2015
My self-depreciation about this little blog post wound up leading to an interesting conversation about talent. It's easy to think of something you're good at as being easy, or unworthy of praise, or any other number of things that allow you to sweep it under the rug. It's easy to look at something you made and find its flaws, then use those to try and convince other people that the thing is absolutely awful. I think creative types in particular do this a lot.
But maybe we shouldn't.
Maybe we should all take a step back from whatever it is that we've made--a little blog post, a big novel, a song, a painting, whatever--and look at it from the point of view of someone who doesn't have the skill set we do. What would someone who isn't aiming to be a professional writer think? What would someone who doesn't have a fine arts degree think? Can we find the shining bits as easily as they could?
Looking at your work like someone else, trying to find the bits beyond all the flaws we immediately see, can help us not hate our own work so much. We as creative people tend to be entirely too hard on ourselves when, sometimes, we really need to actually take stock and appreciate our own talent and hard work.
Emily has a really hard time thinking of herself as 'talented,' but she's trying to get over that and bolster her ego a little bit. She's also in the midst of working out ideas for a new cosplay, because reasons.